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Here Lies Arthur Hardcover – November 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 890L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: ALA Best Books for Young Adults 2009
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; NULL edition (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545093341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545093347
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,069,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 8 Up—Reeve offers up a revisionist retelling of the Arthurian legend, set in southwest Britain in A.D. 500, and exposing the dark side of Camelot. Arthur is a brutal, bullying tyrant, and not terribly bright. His fame stems solely from the stories spun by Myrrdin, a traveling bard and trickster. But this story is not primarily Arthur's. It is Gwyna's, a child who is rescued by Myrddin when her village is sacked and burned. Myrrdin takes her under his care, disguising her first as the Lady of the Lake, and then as a boy. When adolescence arrives, Myrrdin reintroduces her to Arthur's court as a maid and she falls in love with Peredur, who has spent his childhood disguised as a girl. While the switching sexual identities may keep readers a bit off kilter, having the narrator be both Gwyn and Gwyna allows a dual perspective on Arthurian times. Reeve does not shy away from violence and gory battle scenes. When Arthur learns that his wife Gwenhwyfar is committing adultery with his young nephew, he beats and beheads Bedwyr in a particularly bloody episode. Gwenhwyfar is driven to suicide. Gwyna learns that Arthur's heroism and fame stem not from magic and noble deeds but rather from the stories Myrrdin spins. Indeed, with his death, she picks up his mantle. The power of stories is a theme of the novel. Reeve's usual lyrical, cinematic prose underscores the message that in the end perhaps they are the only things that matter. A multilayered tour de force for mature young readers.—Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Powerfully inventive, yet less romanticized than most stories set in the medieval Britain, this novel retells the story of King Arthur from a fresh perspective. Readers first glimpse Gwyna, the novel’s disarming narrator, as “a snot-nosed girl” hiding in the brambles from a marauding band of brutes led by Arthur, “the King that Was and Will Be.” Taken under the wing of the king’s bard and advisor, Myddrin (the Merlin figure), who disguises her first as a lad and then as that fictional lad’s half sister, Gwyna takes part in or observes many significant scenes, from the day Arthur takes the sword offered by a lady beneath a lake until the day of his death. In Gwyna’s telling, many traditionally esteemed characters are revealed as unworthy, and some reviled ones are shown as heroic. Seemingly supernatural elements of the storied events are shown to be mere conjuring tricks, while the most magical power that Myddrin wields is the creative storytelling that shapes history into legend and makes it immortal. Events rush headlong toward the inevitable ending, but Gwyna’s observations illuminate them in a new way. Arthurian lore has inspired many novels for young people, but few as arresting or compelling as this one. Grades 7-10. --Carolyn Phelan

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Customer Reviews

The story was a really fast read.
Travis Eisenbrandt
It's one of those very simply written kids' books but with very adult themes: violence, bloodshed, adultery, suicide, etc.
Avid Reader
Philip Reeve weaved a wonderful story around the tale of King Arthur.
Maureen Mielcarek

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Lawrenz VINE VOICE on February 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Here Lies Arthur is an alternative take on the Arthurian legend, centering on the adventures of a young English girl named Gwynna. Made homeless when the Arthur of legend and his war band sack the homestead of her lord, she flees the battle and is later rescued in the woods by Myrddin, a bard who serves Arthur as an advisor and magician. Myrddin, a man who is agnostic by nature, uses Gwynna to masquerade as the lady of the lake and then raises her as a boy through the early part of her life. Gwynna watches the exploits of Arthur as she grows up, contrasting the rough, brutal man with the heroic stories Myrddin creates about him. The book ultimately follows her adventures and how they are intertwined with the legend of Arthur.

Written by Philip Reeve, the author of the notable and very odd, Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles) science fiction series, Here Lies Arthur was originally published in England in 2007 to good reviews and a few awards. It now has made its way across the pond and has been published in the United States.

Unlike many of the fantasy style recountings of the Arthurian saga, Reeve chooses a realistic approach, framing the Arthurian saga in a more realistic world, made with politics and rough men who fit the period. Presented in the first person as narrated by the girl Gwynna, there is no magic in this story aside from that which Myrddin makes reference to in the many tall tales he tells to help establish Arthur as a hero.

Arthur himself is a rough and mostly non-heroic personage, who gains fame not through his own actions, but through the stories spun by Myrddin.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Schensted VINE VOICE on January 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
in a sentence: Gwyna, a servant girl left behind after one of Arthur's raids, catches the eye of the famous wizard Myrddin. after Myrddin spots what might be some form of usefulness in the plain-faced orphan, Gwyna is in over her head and getting wrapped up in the legendary tale of Arthur.

we first meet little Gwyna as she's running away from the burning place she used to call home. a servant girl, used to being ignored (when she's not being kicked around), is shocked by the seeming kindness from the tall and clever storyteller. Myrddin has been spending his time weaving tales about wonderful and fantastic Arthur, although Gwyna knows just how crude, beastly, and aggressive Arthur really is.

without giving away any of the plot, Reeve takes the reader through some of the more famous people in the Arthurian legend. we meet Myrddin (Merlin), Arthur, Cei (Arthur's half-bro), Gwenhhwyfar (Guenevere), and others. this is not an "oh-my-gosh-Arthur-is-the-greatest-ever!" book. far from it. Reeve explores what some of the myths might have actually been like before the test of time and the romanticizing of the legend. mostly, the focus is on Gwyna, who is the narrator and Myrddin as the master behind Arthur's power.

while this is a clever idea with beautiful writing and turns of phrase, and creative characters, i found myself bored at points. Gwyna made a great narrator, though i felt that her self-professed plainness seeped through to her character development. there were insightful musings on what boys are like, what girls are like, why girls aren't mentioned in famous legends unless as a bad person or as a prize for the men, why war was glamorized, etc.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Cunningham VINE VOICE on December 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Call me old-fashioned, but as a parent and teacher, I have generally assumed that a book from Scholastic Press would not, if books were rated like movies, have an R rating for language, frontal nudity, gender confusion, and adult themes. Just because the narrator is a youth does not make the book suitable for all youth, and just because Philip Reeve has appropriated the King Arthur theme does not make his book suitable for schools.

That Britons fighting Anglo-Saxons use four-letter Anglo-Saxon words for body functions is ironic to the point of comedic. That Christians are consistently portrayed as hypocrites or villains while the "old gods" persist as better spirits seems a view of the twenty-first century, not the fifth. That the traditional good guy (Arthur) is the villain and the traditional bad guy (Mordred, or Medwrat) is a sensitive figure is just silly. Now, if Reeve had intended to show that Arthur and bishops, like all mortals, could have been flawed men, he would have had a more believable take on the characters. However, Reeve has simply transposed the villains and heroes. The persistence of unflawed characters in the book, then, renders its classification as a reality check on human nature an impossibility.

Holt's *Adventures in Appreciation*, a high school literature textbook published in 1996, points out that each generation takes the Arthurian legend and makes it its own, a principle that kept rattling around in my head as I read this book. If one combines that thought with another from Gene Veith--that post-modernists consider the primary use of language as a mask for the truth--it is easier to understand this book.
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